Ramesh terms ship collision as freak accident (Lead)

August 14th, 2010 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Aug 14 (IANS) Terming the collision between two ships off Mumbai as a freak accident, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said Saturday that India has never seen an oil spill like the one resulting from the incident.
Ramesh inspected the coastline near Elephanta Island, along with Maharashtra Environment Minister Suresh Shetty, Saturday morning followed by a review meeting with the various agencies concerned.

“In terms of location (off Mumbai harbour), timing (during southwest monsoon) and quantity (2,000 tonnes of fuel oil), India has not seen such an oil spill till date,” Ramesh said.

“It is a freak accident. This is a unique spill and we have been confronted with a new situation,” Ramesh added.

Ramesh mentioned that there are lessons to be learnt and a system will soon be put in place to combat such a pollution.

Ramesh also said that another lesson India needs to learn from the oil spill is the need to be a member of the international conventions.

“We need to be a part of the Bunker convention of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which will enable India to have more funds in terms of claims,” he said.

“The Directorate General of Shipping will be co-ordinating the matter,” he added.

Ramesh said that there were 250-odd containers which fell off MSC Chitra ship as it collided with another vessel last Saturday. “Of the 250 containers, 83 have been physically located,” Ramesh said.

Normal operations at ports will be restored only after the hazard posed by surfacing of containers on the channel is checked, he added.

Commenting on the environmental damage, Ramesh said that it is massive. “There is undoubtedly a substantial impact on the 100 km coastline, 70 km of which are mangroves. However, the degree of the damage will be known only after an assessment report,” he said.

While the preliminary assessment report will be available in a few days, the detailed assessment report will be available only after three months.

“Experts suggest minimal human interference in the regeneration of the mangroves. There is no other option than to let them regenerate naturally,” Ramesh said, when asked about the damage control measures that can be taken to save the mangroves.

“The Maharashtra government has deputed a team of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) to carry on bio-remedial operations on the beaches affected by the oil spill,” Ramesh said.

Ramesh also expressed his concern over the impact on marine life like pomphrets, crabs, lobsters and other marine fauna due to the oil spill.

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFI) has been asked to assess to the loss to fishermen and the marine life, after which steps will be initiated on compensating fishermen.

Shetty said that the environment damage assessment undertaken by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) will be funded by the union environment ministry.

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